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The Crossing Guard

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Sean Penn’s sophomore effort as writer-director has the raw quality of a scrawled rough draft. Sometimes his story of a jeweler (Jack Nicholson) who seeks revenge on the drunk driver who killed his young daughter hits dead-on with an emotional power that has become increasingly rare in American movies. At other points, The Crossing Guard meanders. But it’s all a little easier to take on the small screen, since Penn does a solid job of getting his stars deep into their characters — especially Nicholson, whose Freddy Gale is the actor’s most convincing characterization in years. B-